Overview of the recently held RBIDZ BRICS round table discussion

01 AUGUST 2018

During the BRICS Business Council meeting, Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone held a BRICS Round Table Discussion involving leaders from all spheres of government, private sector, academics, the media and ordinary members of society.

The Republic of South Africa Ambassador for BRICS Professor Anil Sooklal giving a keynote address encouraged the audience and emphasized that changing the economic landscape requires a collective effort and everyone needs to stand up and interrogate the opportunities that are presented by the BRICS partnership.

‘He highlighted that groundwork has been done and already the country has strong ties with BRICS, however there is a strong edge to tap into the business opportunities that are presented by the relations’.

‘South Africa and entities like RBIDZ need to follow up the business deals negotiated between the countries, this with a strong intent to boost the economy and change the trade landscape’. ‘We need to have focus, and know exactly what we need; this requires systematic approach for positive results to be yielded’.

Critically, the Round-Table Discussion was viewed within the context of attempts of translating the political freedom into economic freedom for the majority of ordinary members of society hence a wide scope of audience and seasoned experts in the industry were part of the discussions.

In the context of the partnership, SA from the onset aimed to forge relations with the other countries that were in the category of “developing countries”.  This was aimed to share information and strategies that would assist these countries to meet with the demands of the society.

It is therefore critical for the people of SA to be clear as to why it is important to be part of this partnership and also what positive benefits can be yielded through this partnership; and this should not only be for the minority however excluded majority should also be able to partake in programmes aimed at sustainable development.

The context of BRICS should also not be looked into in isolation; however it should be interrogated in a context of aligning oneself with the drastic changes that are brought in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR). The questions we should be asking ourselves are then; how do ‘us’  as a country play in the space of globalisation, social change, innovation, technology and re- skilling without being left behind or  inflicting self -harm on what we have achieved thus far as a country.

Taking into account what the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) means;

FIR in simply terms means that we are living in a rapidly changing world many countries and people are being left behind as the changes are accelerating and technologies become more complex and pervasive. Innovation policies are being reviewed and remodelled to ensure they are responsive to emerging ICT opportunities. We need to be as agile as possible in our responses. The impact of digital could be significant, and simple use of technology can change the lives of people.  It therefore by this notion that we have to be cognisance in our dealings whenever we are talking ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and never forget to take the people along and make them understand what we are talking about.

More broadly, digital will play a bigger role in the environment and improving the well-being of communities. For example, by addressing Sustainable Development Goals that combat poverty, inequality and climate change; new technologies could unlock economic benefits, however there could also be negative effects if implementation and safe guarding strategies are not well planned to ensure that people are not left behind.

Private and public sector need to work together in ensuring that gaps which could impact negatively towards driving to the agile changes are addressed with all role players so that we look beyond today’s profitable digital opportunities but also achieve wider societal and environmental gains.

Some efforts will require greater public investment in infrastructure or digital literacy, but more creative opportunities exist, such as establishing ring-fenced regulatory zones, where innovators can experiment with new digital business models.

Looking into FIR in the context of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT; the goals of the country should be aimed at addressing amongst others the following:

  • Poverty
  • Skills and Education
  • Unemployment
  • Non- access to technology and Innovation
  • Inequality
  • Economic growth


Institutions need to implement new business models and put the right people in leadership positions. Available opportunities should be transparent and made available for all. This could be made by equipping people with entrepreneurial skills; and also institutions should work towards combatting corruption which is a big hindering challenge towards emancipation for the majority. Getting these things right will create a stable and predictable business environment, which will, in turn, fuel investments, create jobs and facilitate the production of higher value goods and services in the economy.

To achieve better results a strong ecosystem of partners is important; and combining technological advances with innovative thinking can yield a wealth of possibilities, drive growth and value for companies and the country, this will allow collective platform to address a number of sustainability issues that affect people around the country.


RBIDZ has to ensure that its mandate is speedily executed leveraging on relationships and partnerships already forged. The attraction of foreign direct investments should not be seen as an isolated “must do” for economic growth however investments should be able to drive skills development, socio-economic development and job creation.


What is there for the Academia?

The institution is in the know that it should focus on aligning the curriculum to the changes so that the product is relevant to the demand of the market. Reskilling and redesigning the curriculum requires commitment.

To start, we must commit to ensuring that the right talent is in the right place for the right jobs. The need for workers with specific, highly technical skills is increasing, and that demand is spreading across all sectors, from retail to manufacturing to healthcare.

In technology, for example, job roles are becoming more complex, and to be successful, individuals will need a balance of depth in data analytics, security and application development, while also mastering softer competencies such as creativity, innovative design and entrepreneurship. As the job ecosystem changes, the key is to help learners/students and workers who might feel locked out of the job market to get reskilled for new roles.

The Academia should focus on giving assurance of inclusive and equitable quality of education and content. Reskilling should also be part of matching the demands of the agile changes brought in by FIR.


As the world evolves to meet the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its disrupting effect on all economies; the country needs to consider achieving the true digital growth. This includes the development of digital skills and re skilling in specific disciplines which are a critical demand in the evolving and changing markets. These demands and riches critically lie in the oceans economy, focusing on the import and export transportation.

 These changes mean new technologies, new market entrance opportunities, and new customer expectations; and therefore, new business models, to which the continent needs to adapt rapidly.

There is a need to respond on a call of our customers and their needs which are driven by the market demands and turn- around time, therefore adapting to the changes brought in by the digital era, we are compelled to re-work our business model if we want to see the Oceans Economy reaching the optimum goals and profits that can change the economy.

The Oceans Economy can only be driven through improved infrastructure and this includes optimisation of the ports, railway lines and pipe infrastructure. With the competent infrastructure we ought to see intra trade and manufacturing capitalisation. With these strategies put into effect one can hope to see new market entrance opportunities, new customer expectations and, therefore, new business models, to which the continent needs to adapt rapidly.

In the search for delivering towards the mandate the RBIDZ will continue to create platforms aimed at connecting public sector and private sector to grow relationships and catalyse action through extensive networking; further conceptualise programmes and accelerate initiatives to provoke action-oriented discussion on topical economic issues.